Sunday, 28 July 2013

Recent Mel Simpson Acquisitions

Mel Simpson was one of the pioneers of studio glass in New Zealand, and one of the founders of the NZ Society Artists of in Glass (1980), which continues today as the national glass artists' organisation in NZ.

Mel learnt his glass-blowing in the USA at UCLA (1975), having gone to the US to do a post-graduate design degree (Illinois 1974), but he discovered glass while he was there. His first degree was BFA from Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland (1971) and he returned to Elam to teach. He established the glass facilities there with a QEII grant in 1978. Ann Robinson, Garry Nash, Peter Raos and others were all students of his there. He received two further QEII awards in 1981 and 1983, and exhibited widely in NZ and overseas between 1980 and 1993.

I was pleased to acquire this piece of Mel's on TradeMe recently. It is signed MEL SIMPSON 1979, making it one of the earlier pieces of his that I have. It's a thick walled, heavy circular vase, with an integral 'saucer' shape at the base. Underneath it has had quite a bit of grinding to make it sit smoothly. Because it is so thick, it's hard to determine the colour of the glass, but it's probably dark blue rather than black. The surface has been lightly iridised.
It is 14.5cm high.
I don't think it is one of his best pieces.

However, Mel persisted with the general idea of trailed decoration on the outside of an iridised vessel, making this very much more successful rectangular box in 1984. While still quite heavy, it is lighter and thinner walled, and the base grinding is better handled.  The whole body is iridised, except for the rim, which has been left plain.  It is signed M S 84, and is 13.5cm high.

I bought this on TradeMe as well, and I was especially pleased with it because it is so well provenanced. The parents of the person selling it had bought it at the 1984 Philips Studio Glass Award exhibition at Auckland Museum. Even better,they had retained the catalogue showing the piece and that was included in the Trademe auction.It was number 37 in the catalogue, and cost them $90, rather less than I paid for it, but I was very pleased to get such a well provenanced piece. It is described in the catalogue as "Blue Box (fumed)", and is one of the pieces selected to be illustrated in the catalogue. To have an illustrated catalogue was quite sophisticated at the time, but sadly the small monochrome images don't do justice to the pieces shown.